Oxford University Press has begun a probe to determine how a number of citations and at least one quotation from Bernard Lewis were mangled in John L. Esposito's controversial book, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992, 1995, and 1999). Esposito is one of Lewis's harshest critics. In the book Esposito takes Lewis to task for allegedly reinforcing stereotypes of Muslims as violent and irrational.
In his book Esposito cites a statement Lewis allegedly wrote in an influential article published by the Atlantic Monthly in 1990, "The Roots of Muslim Rage." The statement attributed to Lewis does not appear in the article. The statement, slightly altered, appears as a blurb for the article in the front of the magazine.
The discrepancies were discovered by HNN contributor Irfan Khawaja, an adjunct Instructor in Philosophy at the College of New Jersey and a Lecturer in Politics at Princeton University. Khawaja told HNN that the blurb oversimplifies Lewis's argument, giving Esposito an opportunity to throw an easy punch at Lewis.
Khawaja notified Lewis, who in turn notified Oxford. Cynthia Read, Esposito's editor at Oxford, acknowledged the error in a letter to Lewis. She blamed the mistake on sloppy copyediting for the second edition. (The error is confined to the second and third editions.) She noted that several other errors had been uncovered, including a quotation about Ayatollah Khomeini attributed to a 1919 edition of the New York Times. She indicated it will take quot;detective work to sort things out." Corrections will appear in the next printing.
This is the quotation Esposito attributed to Lewis:
The struggle between Islam and the West has now lasted fourteen centuries. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests. Today much of the Muslim world is again seized by an intense-and violent-resentment of the West. Suddenly, America had become the archenemy, the incarnation of evil, the diabolic opponent of all that is good, and specifically, for Muslims, of Islam. Why?
This is the blurb:
The struggle between Islam and the West has now lasted for fourteen centuries. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests. Today much of the Muslim world is again seized by an intense-and violent-resentment of Islam. "Suddenly," a distinguished historian of Islam writes, "America had become the archenemy, the incarnation of evil, the diabolic opponent of all that is good, and specifically, for Muslims, of Islam. Why?"
HNN asked Esposito for a response. He replied by attacking the credentials of Irfan Khawaja. Esposito said that he had put Khawaja's name in the Google search engine and discovered that "Irfan's new website is that of a woman." Esposito also indicated that a "search of College of NJ indicates no adjnct [sic] by name of Irfan." The website Esposito directed us to belongs to a graduate student at the University of Colorado/Boulder. As Khawaja explained to us, "She apparently collected some old papers of mine and put them on her website to elicit comments, etc." And HNN confirmed that Khawaja is an adjunct at the College of New Jersey and is also a lecturer at Princeton.